By David Hennessy
Winner of both Hot Press’ Most Promising New Act and Best Irish Male at the Meteor Music Awards in 2009, Cork singer-songwriter Mick Flannery has been an established star at home for years with his third album, Red to Blue, going straight to number one in the Irish charts last year. Now Mick is looking to replicate his success on this side of the water with his forthcoming UK tour. While he has been over to play single occasions such as a gig at the Irish Olympic House last year and the recent Camden Irish Centre fund raiser hosted by the Amy Winehouse Foundation, this will be his first UK tour and coinciding with Red to Blue’s UK release.
The first song Mick wrote was about a murder which took place on his road and the singer has often poked fun at his own material, describing it as ‘depressing’. Does he really see it this way? “I suppose I’m trying to look at it from other people’s point of view when I say that because I’d see a set of lyrics and think: ‘This doesn’t start well: Why am I subjecting people to this?’” He explains breaking into a laugh.
“It’s not that they’re sad, they’re about sad things, I suppose. I like to think there’s a little bit of hope in them but not always the case, I suppose.”
However, it is emotions such as these that inspire Mick to reach for the guitar: “When I’m happy, I’m happy and I don’t really think about music at all. If something is bothering me or I see something bothering someone else, I use music as something to help, a little therapeutic tool. Sometimes you get a song out of it, sometimes you don’t.”
The Blarney musician worked as a stone mason even after his musical career took off and last April, there was much written in the Irish press about Madonna losing her number one spot to a tradesman from Cork, but the singer didn’t allow himself to get carried away by it: “I remember when they called me to tell me about that. You know what? I blocked it out, I ignored it completely. It was one of those things that was going to pass in a week’s time. I just said: ‘No point thinking about this, it’s a number, it’s arbitrary, it doesn’t really matter’.
“I might look back some time in the future and it might be enjoyable some years from now. At the time and now, it doesn’t enter into my head because I’m lucky enough to still be enjoying the job. I’m still tipping away so I don’t really reminisce.”
Flannery was undertaking a music and management course at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa in Cork when he started writing his debut album, Evening Train which was released in 2007. The record was acclaimed for both its astute lyrics and imaginative melodies in Ireland and America. A subsequent appearance on Other Voices increased interest in his music further. It was just the next year that Flannery’s second album White Lies reached the top ten of the Irish album chart and earned Flannery a nomination for the Choice Music Prize.
Winning two awards in the prestigious International Songwriting Competition, judged by hero Tom Waits, in 2004 was a proud moment for Mick. Other highlights of his career to date include playing the Cork Opera House and Dublin’s Olympia for the first time: “I enjoy performing but what I enjoy most is the initial part, the writing part. I do enjoy playing live of course, it’s a great feeling, but it’s not what motivates me. I think the nicest feeling is the lonely one you get in a room when something comes to you or falls out of the guitar. That’s the nicest thing.”
Anyone attending this weekend’s Electric Picnic can catch Mick on Sunday and the Cork performer is delighted this is one year the Picnic doesn’t clash with the All-Ireland hurling final with The Rebels set to take on Clare: “I am a hurling man but I’m desperate at the moment, I haven’t been following it as much as I should have been. Being in Berlin makes it difficult. I used to follow it a lot better than I do now.”
Assured the Croke Park decider takes place on September 8 rather than September 1, he laughs: “I’ll watch it. I’ll be drunk for that so.”
For the full interview, see the August 31 print edition of The Irish World.
Red To Blue by Mick Flannery is released in the UK on September 2. Mick plays The Prince Albert in Brighton on September 9, The Lexington in London on September 10, The Louisiana in Bristol on September 11, Sound Control in Manchester on September 12, Leaf in Liverpool in September 14, The Think Tank in Newcastle on September 15. For more information, go to: www.mickflannery.com.